Nur-ellen takes on Greenberg's universals
|From:||Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>|
|Date:||Friday, September 15, 2000, 1:14|
Marcus Smith tetent:
>Here are Greenberg's Word Order Universals from his book Universals of
Let's see how Nur-ellen tests against them.
>1. In declarative sentences with nominal subject and object, the dominant
>is almost always one in which the subject precedes the object.
Yep, Nur-ellen is SVO.
>2. In languages with prepositions, the genitive almost always follows the
>governing noun, while in languages with postpositions it almost always
Nur-ellen has prepositions, and the genitive follows the noun.
>3. Languages with dominant VSO order are always prepositional.
>4. With overwhelmingly greater than chance frequency, languages with normal
>SOV order are postpositional.
>5. If a language had dominant SOV order and the genitive follows the governing
>noun, then the adjective likewise follows the noun.
>6. All languages with dominant VSO order have SVO as an alternative or as the
>only alternative basic order.
>7. If in a language with dominant SOV order there is no alternative basic
>order, or only OSV as the alternative, then all the adverbial modifiers of the
>verb likewise precede the verb.
Universals #3 to #7 do not apply as Nur-ellen is neither VSO nor SOV.
>8. When a yes-no question is differentiated from the corresponding
>an intonational pattern, the distinctive intonational features of each of the
>patterns is reckoned from the end of the sentence rather than the beginning.
>9. With well more than chance frequency, when question particles or affixes
>specified in position by reference to the sentence as a whole, if initial,
>such elements are found in prepositional languages and, if final, in
Yes, Nur-ellen has prepositions, and question words go first.
>10. Question particles or affixes, specified in position by reference to a
>particular word in the sentence, almost always follow that word. Such
>particles do not occur in languages with dominant order VSO.
I don't have the faintest idea what is referred to here.
>11. Inversion of statement order so that verb precedes subject occurs only in
>languages where the question word or phrase is normally initial. This same
>inversion occurs in yes-no questions only if it also occurs in interrogative
Agreed. Nur-ellen has initial question words, and it has VSO order in
both types of questions.
>12. If a language has dominant order VSO in declarative sentences, it always
>puts interrogative words or phrases first in interrogative word questions; if
>it has dominant order SOV in declarative sentences, there is never such an
Does not apply.
>13. If the nominal object always precedes the verb, then verb forms
>to the main verb also precede it.
Does not apply.
>14. In conditional statements, the conditional clause precedes the conclusion
>as the normal order in all languages.
>15. In expressions of volition and purpose, a subordinate verbal form always
>follows the main verb as the normal order except in those languages in which
>the nominal object always precedes the verb.
>16. In languages with dominant order VSO, an inflected auxiliary always
>precedes the main verb. In language with dominant order SOV, an inflected
>auxiliary always follows the main verb.
Does not apply as Nur-ellen is SVO; however, in Nur-ellen, the
>17. With overwhelmingly more than chance frequency, languages with dominant
>order VSO have the adjective after the noun.
Does not apply.
>18. When the descriptive adjective precedes the noun, the demonstrative and
>numeral, with overwhelmingly more than chance frequency, do likewise.
Does not apply as adjectives follow; but numerals and demonstratives
>19. When the eneral rule is that the descriptive adjective follows, there may
>be a minority of adjectives which usually precede, but when the general
>that descriptive adjective precede, there are no exceptions.
As for yet, there are no descriptive adjectives which usually precede.
>20. When any or all of the items -- demonstratives, numeral, and descriptive
>adjective -- precede the noun, they are always found in that order. If they
>follow, the order is either the same or its exact opposite.
While adjectives usually do not precede, dem and num preced in the
order given above, and in those few cases where the adjective
exceptionally precedes as well, it follows the numeral.
>21. If some or all adverbs follow the adjective they modify, then the language
>is one in which the qualifying adjective follows the noun and the verb
>its nominal object as the dominant order.
Yes. Adverbs follow, and so do adjectives, and SVO.
>22. If in comparisons of superiority the only order or one of the alternative
>orders is standard-marker-adjective, then the language is postpositional.
>overwhelmingly more than chance frequency, if the only order is
>adjective-marker-standard, the language is prepositional.
Fulfilled: Nur-ellen has preopostions and adj-marker-standard order.
>23. If in apposition the proper noun usually precedes the common noun, then
>language is one in which the governing noun precedes its dependent genitive.
>With much more than chance frequency, if the common noun usually precedes the
>proper noun, the dependent genitive precedes its governing noun.
Fulfilled: proper names precede common nouns, and genitives follow
>24. If the relative expression precedes the noun either as the only
>construction or as an alternative construction, either the language is
>postpositional or the adjective precedes the noun or both.
In Nur-ellen, the relative expression follows the noun; exceptions are
only occasionally encountered in poetry.
>25. If the pronominal object follows the verb, so does the nominal object.
The nominal object follows, but the pronominal object often precedes.
>26. If a language has discontinuous affixes, it always either prefixing or
>suffixing or both.
Yep. Nur-ellen has both prefixes and suffixes.
>27. If a language is exclusively suffixing, it is postpositional; if it is
>exclusively prefixing, it is prepositional.
Doesn't apply: Nur-ellen does both pre- and suffixing.
>28. If both the derivation and inflection follow the root, or they both
>the root, the derivation is always between the root and the inflection.
>29. If a language has inflection, it always has derivation.
Yes. Nur-ellen has both.
>30. If the verb has categories of person-number or if it has categories of
>gender, it always has tense-mode categories.
Yes: Nur-ellen verbs have person and number, and they also have tense
>31. If either the subject or object noun agrees with the verb in gender, then
>the adjective always agrees with the noun in gender.
Nur-ellen has no gender distinction other than the distinction between
animate and inanimate nouns. There is, however, no animacy agreement
in either verbs (other than in some positions, there must be an
animate noun because inanimate nouns have no agentive case) or
>32. Whenever the verb agrees wih a nominal subject or nominal object in
>gender, it also agrees in number.
There is no gender nor number agreement.
>33. When number agreement between the noun and verb is suspended and the rule
>is based on order, the case is always one in which the verb is in the
Does not apply.
>34. No language has a trial number unless is has a dual. No language has a
>dual unless it has a plural.
Nur-ellen has plural, but neither dual or trial.
>35. There is no language in which the plural does not have some nonzero
>allomorphs, whereas there are languages in which the singular is expressed
>only by zero. The dual and the trial are almost never expressed by zero.
Plural is usually marked.
>36. If a language has the category of gender, it always has the category of
Nur-ellen has number.
>37. A language never has more gender categories in nonsingular numbers that in
Yes: there are gender distinctions (within animate) in 3rd person
singular pronouns, but nowhere else. The animate/inanimate
distinction in 3rd person pronouns exists in both singular and
>38. Where there is a case system, the only case which ever has only zero
>allomorphs is the one which includes among its meanings that of the subject of
>the intrasitive verbs.
There is no such thing as "the subject [case] of the intransitive
verbs" because Nur-ellen is an active language, hence the case
agreement with intransitive verbs is lexically split: some verbs take
the agentive case (which is the unmarked case in animate nouns), others
the objective case (which is the ONLY case in inanimate nouns).
>39. Where morphemes of both number and case are present and both follow or
>precede the noun base, the expression of number almost always comes between
>noun base and the expression of case.
In Nur-ellen, number and case are expressed by changing certain vowels
(number) or consonants (case) in the word; both inflections are
independent of each other, there is no sequence of morphemes. Universal
#39 can hardly be applied.
>40. When the adjective follows the noun, the adjective expresses all the
>inflectional categories of the noun. In such cases the noun may lack overt
>expression of one or all of these categories.
The adjective is inflected for number and case, but not for animacy.
>41. If in a language the verb follows both the nominal subject and nominal
>object as the dominant order, the language almost always has a case system.
Does not apply: the verb does not follow the object.
>42. All languages have pronominal categories involving at least three persons
>and two numbers.
>43. If a language has gender distinctions in the noun, it has gender
>categories in the pronoun.
Nur-ellen has gender distinctions only in pronouns. There are
different animate and inanimate pronoun forms in the 3rd person,
>44. If a language has gender distinctions in the first person, it always has
>gender distinctions in the second or third or in both.
Nur-ellen does not distinguish gender in the 1st person.
>45. If there are any gender distinctions in the plural of the pronoun, there
>are some gender distinctions in the singular also.
Nur-ellen does not distinguish gender (other than animate/inanimate)
in the plural.
Possibly violated: 31,40
Not applicable: 3,4,5,6,7,12,13,16,17,18,24,25,27,32,33,34,41,43,44,45
Universals #31 and #40 could be considered violated if one considers
the animate/inanimate distinction a gender distinction.
A true gender distinction, however, exists only in 3rd person singular
animate pronouns. Universal #38 is difficult to apply because Nur-ellen
active language; #39 is difficult because case and number are
indicated by root inflexions.
I could not make enough sense of universal #10 to check whether it
So overall Nur-ellen behaves quite well, I think.